Why Cheaper Engagement Rings May Mean a Longer Marriage

Several months before we were engaged, my fiancé Patrick inquired about what sort of rings I liked.


I knew why he was asking, so I cut to the chase and sent him a detailed and terribly unromantic email describing my dream engagement ring to a tee (along with links to sites), and then put in bold font: Do not spend a lot; if you do I will say no.

I was joking of course, but not about my desire for him to stick to a sensible budget, since we were living more or less paycheck-to-paycheck at the time.

Patrick did end up spending a tad more than I would have liked, but it wasn’t outrageous and the ring is just what I would have picked for myself (probably because it came from one of the links I sent him).

Three years later, as we’re finally about to walk down the aisle, I stumbled across research that has me wondering whether being financially shrewd about the engagement ring (and now about our wedding) won’t only help our bank accounts, but also help our marriage’s odds of lasting.


The research, co-authored by Andrew Francis-Tan, a visiting associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and Hugo M. Mialon, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the department of economics at Emory University, examined the association between wedding spending and marriage duration using data from their survey of over 3,000 ever-married adults in the U.S.

The motivation of the research was to uncover whether spending a fortune on a ring and a wedding, (as we’re frequently inclined to do, often to our own regret) impacts the longevity of a marriage.

“Wedding industry advertising has fueled the norm that spending large amounts on the engagement ring and wedding is an indication of commitment or is helpful for a marriage to be successful,” says Mialon.

“In either case, the general message is that wedding spending and marriage duration are positively correlated.”

But that’s not the case.


In their research, Francis-Tan and Mialon found that men who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring had a higher rate of divorce(of about 1.3 times) than men who spent between $500 and $2,000.

Men who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring had a higher rate of divorce than men who spent between $500 and $2,000.

But the pendulum swings the other way, too. Spending less than $500 on an engagement ring was found to be associated with higher divorce rates in the sample of women surveyed.

This information could lead one to surmise that between a ring between $500 and $2000 is the best amount to spend, if you want to lower the odds of divorce, but that’s not the best way to look at this analysis, which Tan-Francis asserts “does not prove that high expenses on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony cause divorce, only that high expenses on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony are positively correlated with divorce, holding constant a number of demographic and relationship characteristics, including income.”

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